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Peterson Ranch Meander - Sierra Ancha, AZ
mini location map2020-05-09
19 by photographer avatarOregon_Hiker
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Peterson Ranch Meander - Sierra Ancha, AZ 
Peterson Ranch Meander - Sierra Ancha, AZ
Hiking3.04 Miles 513 AEG
Hiking3.04 Miles   3 Hrs   46 Mns   1.02 mph
513 ft AEG      48 Mns Break
1st trip
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This was my third day of a 6 night camping trip to the Aztec Peak area of the Sierra Ancha. After a long exhausting hike the day before and another planned for the next day, I planned to take it easy and just poke around the old Peterson Ranch Site. But first I drove up to the top of Aztec Peak to check out the views and the Flintstones Furniture - always a worthwhile side trip if your in the area.

Starting my hike at the the trailhead for the Abbey Way Trail #151, it was an easy stroll to the meadows and springs on the old Peterson Ranch property. While on Aztec Peak I had seen patches of open forest in the New Mexican Locust jungle on the hillside above the ranch. I decided to explore those forested areas since I'd never been there before. After working my way through some brush on an animal trail I soon found a route up the hill side through an old forest which showed signs of having been logged many years ago. I don't know the history of logging in this area but expect it could go back to the 1940-50s if not earlier. The old stumps are almost rotted away. The forested area on the hillside was fairly open under a canopy of pine, fir, oak and walnut trees and I was able to hike almost to the top of the ridge leading from Aztec Peak to Murphy Peak before being confronted with a wall of New Mexican Locust.

While walking through this isolated section of forest I spotted a patch of bright white pebbles on the ground about 50 yds away. Going closer to check it out I discovered that the "pebbles" were actually water softener salt pellets. Since cattle have not been grazed in this area for many years I suspect this was a man-made salt lick to attract wild game. Later on in the hike I would discover another one of these man-made salt licks by a spring about 220 yds from the foundation of the old Peterson Ranch house.

Returning to the Peterson Ranch site I walked through the old orchard to the cabin foundation and then to an area 220 yds south of the cabin where an account of Edward Baker's murder said he had been buried. I've looked for his grave before without success and had the same result this time but did find a spring and the salt lick there.

The Petersons were not the first ones to settle at this location. In the early 1880's John H. Baker moved from California to the Sierra Ancha and established a ranch at this location. Nearby Baker Mountain was named for him. A little later John developed another ranch down lower in the mountains near Salome Creek. One of his two sons, Edward (Ned), remained at the ranch near Baker Mountain. In July 1890 Edward was murdered outside the cabin. One of two assailants thought to be Indians from the nearby reservation shot him in the back mortally wounding him and then picked up Baker's axe and whacked his neck 2 or 3 times almost severing his head. They then ransacked the cabin and fled the scene. Two days later a neighboring rancher dropped by to visit and discovered the body. He immediately went to Edward's father's ranch and notified him of the murder. John Baker and two neighboring ranchers soon arrived at the scene. They quickly buried Edward's badly decomposing body at the base of an old pine tree approximately 220 yds south of the cabin. Al Sieber and a couple of Indian trackers were brought in to track the perpetrators. They were tracked down on the Indian Reservation, arrested, tried for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment at the old prison in Yuma. This account came mostly from the book "White Justice in Arizona: Apache Murder Trials in the Nineteenth Century" by Clare V. McKanna Jr. I found a highly embellished account in the May 3, 1956 edition of the Globe Pager which varies significantly in some of the details. To the best of my knowledge the cabin near Baker Mountain was abandoned until sometime between 1910 and 1920 when Glars Pete Peterson and family established a homestead at the site of the old Baker cabin. Glars' 5 children, 3 girls and 2 boys, grew up there and all eventually left their mountain homestead except Dewey Peterson who remained their with his parents. Dewey patented 43 acres at their ranch site on Mar 3, 1923. These old homesteads were often patented years after they had occupied the site because the official paper work couldn't be completed until an accurate land survey was completed and proof was established that the homesteading requirements had been met. The Petersons left their mountain homestead in about 1939. The parents moved to the Phoenix area and Dewey to Nevada. They sold the property to the government and it became part of the Tonto National Forest.

So, enough reminiscing about pioneering history in the Sierra Ancha. I've probably told these stories before in other triplogs. I always enjoy returning to these remote historic sites and thinking about what the lives of these early pioneers must have been like. In this case we're lucky to have a short account of the Peterson's family's lives in those days as told by Glars to his oldest daughter. It's available on HAZ by clicking on the Peterson Ranch label.
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